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McQuaid hopes for China Tour popularity similar to Tour de France

UCI President Pat McQuaid promised China's new stage race would be "as important and popular as the Tour de France" according to the China Daily. McQuaid was referring to the Tour of China, planned for 2009.

At the Track World Cup in Beijing Saturday, McQuaid said, "We have a very ambitious plan." Referring to the race, he said, "The Tour of China will be a professional tournament different from other races held in China. This means that the world's top 18 to 20 professional teams will participate in the event for the first time in China's cycling history."

The UCI will work with China's Cycling Association to keep the cycling momentum alive after the Olympic Games are held in Beijing in 2008.

"I believe that many bicycle fans in China know the Tour de France. We hope to make the Tour of China an event as important and popular as the Tour de France," said McQuaid to the China Daily. "The race would be part of the elite ProTour calendar. We are all looking forward to it."

The UCI has about 20 cyclists racing on professional teams in Europe and it hosts two major races, the Tour of Qinghai Lake and the Tour of Hainan Island. McQuaid indicated he was impressed with the success of both races and predicted all the top teams would come to a Tour of China, instead of the one or two that now regularly attend both existing Chinese Tours.

As strained relations between the UCI and Grand Tour organizers continue, the UCI is looking outside the sport's usual European center to add new major events. "We will create a global tour," he said. "It's important for our sponsors to go into these new markets. Cycling needs to offer those markets."

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